The biggest concern among fans of the Milwaukee Brewers heading into the 2009 season was about the quality of their pitching, particularly the starting rotation.  For most of this season, it’s safe to say that the pitching has exceeded expectations.  Recently, however, the staff has shown signs that those early fears may be justified.  And, unfortunately, the team’s current resurgence at the plate hasn’t been able to overcome those struggles.

Since the beginning of June, the Brewers record is 7-10.  So far, they’ve maintained their lead in the NL Central only because the other teams in the division have also played inconsistently. 

The collective Earned Run Average of the starting rotation this month is a hefty 7.17.  Manny Parra’s dearly departed 16.68 ERA in June certainly lifted that number, but he had plenty of help.  Braden Looper’s four starts in June (0-1 record) are accompanied by an 8.10 ERA.  Dave Bush has been even worse in his 3 starts (0-2) this month with a 9.42 ERA.  In contrast, Jeff Suppan (2-0, 2.74) and Yovani Gallardo (2-1, 4.00) have remained reasonably effective, though Gallardo seems to be exhibiting the effects of some high pitch counts.

And the Brewers’ team ERA is only part of the problem.  The average innings per start in June have been just over 5.  In the 17 games so far this month, Milwaukee’s starting pitcher has lasted into the 7th inning only two times.  That has put stress on an already overworked bullpen, a situation only aggravated by Parra’s demotion.  After being virtually unhittable in May, closer Trevor Hoffman has blown his first save and taken his first loss in the last week.  The relief corps as a whole is 3-4 in June with a 4.33 ERA.

The question now is whether the current downturn represents an aberration or a return to normal.  The history of the pitchers involved would seem to suggest the latter.  That makes it incumbent upon General Manager Doug Melvin to find a competent pitcher as a fifth starter, sooner rather than later.  The Brewers have already demonstrated that their offense as constituted is too inconsistent to carry the team on a regular basis.  If the Brewers hope to remain in the race for the National League playoffs, they’ll need their pitching to keep them in games.

 

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